Skip to main content

WGAE: FCC Needs to Add Specific "News Investment" Policy Goal

The Writers Guild of America East has urged the FCC not to believe broadcasters when they argue consolidation "frees up resources to improve news coverage" and wants it to adopt a fourth, explicit policy goal for its review of its regulations: "[I]ncreasing the resources devoted to diverse local news programming."

The FCC has tentatively concluded to stick to its traditional trio of competition, localism and diversity, but WGAE says those are "meaningless" unless the fourth is added since it is "central to the impact of any FCC rules on availability of news and investigative journalism."

Instead freeing up resources, said the union, which represents broadcast news staffers among others, allowing TV stations and/or radio stations newspapers or internet outlets to combine will "inevitably result in less substance, in the absence of clearly-defined requirements that specific levels of resources be devoted to journalism."

The union said that "adding hours of broadcast time per week, and spreading it over a wider variety of outlets, does not enhance diversity or quality, unless staff is expanded and given the independence and sufficient means to do the work." 

That came in comments to the FCC on its proposed changes to media ownership rules per its quadrennial congressionally mandated reg review and a remand from the Third Circuit Court of appeals to take another crack at its 2007 rule remake.

The FCC this time around has proposed loosening the newspaper-broadcast crossownership rule, but not lifting it. The move is essentially a rerun of its 2007 proposal. But it is also proposing lifting the radio/TV crossownership ban entirely, while leaving duopoly and other ownership regs alone, except for asking a lot of questions about whether it should start counting joint station operations, like joint news production, against its ownership caps.